By Tom Joseph
Pennsylvania Bureau, Public News Service
DALTON PA – In a sprawling, formerly abandoned warehouse a little more than a hundred miles north of Sanatoga, a vertical farming operation has reaped its first harvest.
Michigan-based Green Spirit Farms is using a site in Dalton, a Scranton suburb, to grow high-quality, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables that are not genetically modified. President Milan Kluko says his company’s vertical farming operation uses huge shelves, or pallet racks, to grow produce on multiple levels.
“It’s nine feet across by four feet deep, so that’s 36 square feet. At 36 square feet, we can grow 1,016 heads of lettuce, or we can plant 1,016 basil plants,” explains Kluko. “We can plant up to 10,000 arugula plants, and we can do it all in 21 to 30 days.”
- Green Spirit’s Dalton launch benefited from $345,000 in two state grants and $303,000 in job-creation tax credits, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Kluko says Green Spirit’s goal is to develop vertical farming using carbon neutral or renewable energy when practical, and to use compostable and recycled packaging for produce sold to retail customers.
But he claims the most compelling aspect of vertical farming involves water conservation. As proof, he cites overall water use in growing romaine lettuce in California and Arizona using traditional methods, as opposed to growing it vertically.
“In California, they use about seven-and-a-half gallons per one head,” says Kluko. “In Arizona, they use about 25 gallons per head. We use .33 gallons per head because we recycle about 40- to 50-percent of the nutrient-rich water right back into the system.”
Kluko says municipalities can look to vertical farming as a way to “reoccupy” land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes, also known as brownfields.
“That particular building outside Scranton was vacant for 12 years,” says Kluko. “We came in about this time last summer to start the demonstration farm, so we’ve been growing there since June 9 and were up and running, and (had) our first harvest before the fourth of July.”
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Photo from Green Spirit Farms